In a significant show of force, and ability to operate jointly, an armada of 10 Chinese and Russian warships is currently conducting a patrol together around Japan. The route they are following increasingly suggests it might take them all the way around Japan’s Home Islands.
This joint operation appears to be Russia and China’s response to the many major maritime exercises in the Pacific this year by the U.S. Navy and its allies — including Japan.
Both Russia and China have territorial disputes with Japan over various Japanese islands.
The Sino-Russo fleet passed through the narrow Tsugaru Strait, which is only around 12 miles wide at its narrowest point. “It is the first time for Chinese and Russian naval ships to sail the Tsugaru Strait together,” Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told reporters earlier this week.
See video of the Russian-Chinese flotilla:
— Granger (@GrangerE04117) October 19, 2021
The Drive reported that:
The Japanese Ministry of Defense announced today that it had monitored the Chinese and Russian ships passing west between Smith Island and the island of Torishima, an area situated some 300 miles south of the Home Island of Honshu. The vessels first entered the Pacific Ocean, traveling east through the Tsugaru Strait that separates Honshu and the Home Island of Hokkaido to the north, on Oct. 18, 2021.
The Drive adds:
The flotilla consists of five ships each from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the Russian Navy. The Chinese contingent includes a Type 055 destroyer, a Type 052D destroyer, two Type 054A frigates, and an at-sea replenishment ship. Two Udaloy class destroyers, two Steregushchiy class corvettes, and what was identified as a Marshal Nedelin class missile range instrumentation ship, make up the Russian contributions.
See Russian military propaganda video of this naval operation.
📽 #Видео Совместное учение ВМФ России и ВМС Китая «Морское взаимодействие-2021» завершилось в Японском море https://t.co/Za6ztE6Hc9#Минобороны #РоссияКитай #БоеваяПодготовка #МорскоеВзаимодействие #СовместныеУчения pic.twitter.com/S0FZok5Gwc
— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) October 18, 2021
See also examples of recent U.S. and allied naval operations in the region.
From October 15 to 18, #JSKaga and #JSMurasame of #IndoPacificDeployment unit conducted 🇯🇵🇺🇸🇦🇺🇬🇧 multilateral exercise with vessels such as 🇺🇸@USNavy @CVN70 , #CSG21 🇬🇧@RoyalNavy @HMSQNLZ and 🇦🇺@Australian_Navy #HMASBallarat in the #BayofBengal ! pic.twitter.com/T2KFiVWlD2
— Japan Ministry of Defense/Self-Defense Forces (@ModJapan_en) October 20, 2021
The Drive also notes that:
The Chinese and Russian naval vessels currently appear to be headed for the East China Sea, and it looks more and more like they could then turn north and take a trip around Japan’s Home Islands. Circling the Japanese archipelago, which also plays host to significant American forces — including the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet — would send a very distinct signal about the ability of China and Russia to work together militarily in support of their own respective national interests. It’s worth pointing out that China and Russia both have significant ongoing territorial disputes with Japan, among a variety of other geopolitical issues in the region.
As part of this increasing Chinese and Russian naval activity, a different PLAN surface action group conducted a rare cruise near Alaska in September. While the Russian Navy conducted its own drills very close to Hawaii earlier this year and has also been increasingly active near Alaska. ADN